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No cheating - and no pretending not to cheat. Just common sense, hard work - and results of unbeatable quality.

In a competitive sector, Content and Visibility improvements are necessary (indeed, mandatory) foundations for high performance in search. But it is your site’s Reputation – the patterns of internal and external links flowing into and out of your site – that is the key to actually delivering that high performance.

Yet improving a site’s Reputation is particularly hard because you are, by definition, not in control of the behaviour of relevant, authority third-party sites, and hence the external links that come from them.

Google doesn’t trust you

Google puts a great deal of store in the value of these links from authority sites run by people other than you, precisely because it knows links from such sites are almost impossible to cheat. When Google finds a link from an independent site that is contextually related to yours, and which in itself has a very strong online reputation, it perceives that as a very valuable ‘vote’ for the quality of your site. The direct consequence, in simple terms, is an uplift in the ranking of relevant results from your site. The more ‘votes’ from quality external sites, the greater the uplift.

Consequently, you won’t ever find us recommending things like ‘partner networks’ or blogs of dubious provenance, which, despite what others may tell you, are most definitely cheating, and will be discovered by Google sooner or later. (But which, more to the point, are just not ever quality, authoritative sites – rendering such an approach doubly futile).

To improve your natural search performance on a sustainable long-term basis in Google and other search engines you must develop truly ethical strategies and tactics that encourage the linking behaviour of relevant third-party sites in to your site.

Reputation – not ‘link building’

Reputation, as its name suggests, is deliberately distanced from ‘link building’ as an SEO activity, because it helps you focus on increasing the reasons why other sites should link to you rather than simply the links themselves. The more effort you put into building Reputation, the more your links will grow, the higher quality and more relevant they will be, and the greater and more long-term the benefits will be to the performance of your business online.

Our Reputation development work covers many areas, and our Reputation audit reports, for example, provide clients with highly in-depth bespoke Reputation recommendations. To provide some indication of the work we do in this area, our recommendations address – amongst others – the following issues.

Internal Reputation

Reputation begins at home. As a web site gets larger and more extensive, and as its content grows, Google pays more and more attention to the patterns of linking within the site itself in order to assess the relative importance of the many pages of similar content it may find.

Internal Reputation development as a discipline involves looking at your site architecture, navigation construction, internal link patterns and the anchor texts; this work is of critical importance in the support of the development of external Reputation.

Destination Content

There is nothing more likely to inspire the linking behaviour of the third parties relevant to your site than the most remarkably high-quality content. Ideally, Destination Content should be the best content in its competitive market: i.e. the broadest, most in-depth, most helpful, easy-to-use, excellently designed, with the best accompanying assets such as video, downloads, etc., to ensure it delivers the Reputation benefits you need.

Ultimately, Destination Content is a strategic issue for your web site, needing vision, commitment and support.

Linkbait

In contrast to the strategic drivers behind Destination Content, the notion of Linkbait is fundamentally tactical. Linkbait is an SEO phenomenon that has developed out of the growing impotence of conventional SEOs who have seen the results of their short-sighted link-building strategies turn to dust.

The characteristics of Linkbait that make them successful are those of irresistibility and relevance, and the measures of the effectiveness of a piece of Linkbait are whether the URL gets forwarded to someone or posted on a web site (or blog) somewhere.

Linkbait must simply be so interesting, quirky, extraordinary, insightful, timely, useful or provocative that huge numbers of people in the target audience can’t help but link to it.

Social Media: tomorrow’s word of mouth marketing

In our permanently connected era of text messaging, email and, now, social media, word-of-mouth is morphing into something more powerful and effective because of the added dimension of it being recorded, archived and indexed. Its role in natural search performance is to be a vital channel for your reputation online.

From social networking sites such as Myspace, Bebo, Facebook and Twitter,
through shared bookmarking sites such Delicious, Reddit, Digg and StumbleUpon, to
‘citizen media’ (or blogs to you and me), user generated content, opinions and preferences are increasingly making a considerable difference to the performance of web sites in search.